On Sunday, August 1, Bob and I trekked back to DC. It was hot, although not insanely so, but the traffic in Delaware was truly insane. It took us 10 minutes to get out of the Delaware Reststop on 95, and another 10 or 15 to get to the first exit, which said Route 301. Now, I knew that 301 went through Maryland, and could be used to get to DC. So, seeing an out, I took it. This is called not thinking very clearly, because if I had taken any time at all to ponder this option, I would have realized that 301 goes over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Anyone who has ever lived in DC or on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and I have lived in both places, will tell you that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a place you don't want to be on a weekend in the summertime.
We drove through a lot of pleasant countryside, and pleasant countryside that was getting ready to have the shit developed out of it. But, as predicted, when we got to where 301 joins Route 50, we hit the bridge traffic. The bridge traffic goes faster than it did when I lived there in 1978, but it isn't what anyone would call speedy. So we got home around 8:00 pm having left the Berkshires at 10:30..
Because we were turning around and leaving DC on Thursday, I figured it might be nice to have my son and his fiancee over to dinner. Tuesday was the appointed day. I also decided that if I ever want to finish this chapter, I'd better do some more canning. I settled on Ernie's Mustard Pickles because the recipe didn't make too much. Our family has a history of canning things, and then putting them up in the closet to molder. Winchester Center Bread and Butter Pickles came before Ernie in the book, but it made five quarts. Ernie's recipe made two quarts. Less was better.
So, Tuesday morning, I started cutting up cucumbers and onions. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 quarts of cucumbers, and six cups of onions. Well, I cut up the cucumbers into my measuring cup and dumped them into the big ceramic bread bowl, where they were to soak for three hours. It wasn't until I had cut up all the cucumbers and an entire bag of onions that I realized that my measuring cup held two cups, so I had doubled the recipe.
Just as I was finishing up the chopping, my son came in with a bag of groceries. He had found a recipe for chocolate cake to be cooked in a slow cooker and volunteered to make it for dinner. Now that the bar exam is over, he has some time on his hands. I gave him a brief lesson in separating eggs, volunteered to lick the beaters, and left for the gym.
When I got back, he was still there, and offered to help me with the pickles. Things went better than they had gone at Mommio's, because I had my canning equipment and I felt free to sterilize the jars in the dishwasher. We put all the spices and vinegar into the pot, boiled it briefly and loaded it into the hot, sterilized jars. They were good. Son liked them and ate an entire half jar. Husband likes them too. These particular pickles can be termed a success. Maybe doubling the recipe by mistake wasn't such a bad thing after all. One thing. It called for turmeric. I didn't have turmeric. However, since turmeric is a prime ingredient in curry powder, I put in 1/2 teaspoonful of curry powder. It seemed to work.
One other thing. Jean Hewlett is really not the cookbook editor for a novice pickle maker. The recipe does not say how one seals jars, for example. Here's what you do. Y ou must sterilize the jars, the new, out of the box lids and the bands in boiling water. After you fill up the jars, put on the lids and then keep them in place with the bands. Then, boil up your enormous pot of water. What you really want here is a canning pot, with a rack on the bottom. The rack is to fish the hot jars out of just subboiling water without burning your fingers. Once the water in your huge pot is boiling merrily, put the jars in the rack and lower them into the water. They should be submerged in the water. Then, put a tightly fitting lid on the pot and let it boil for 15 minutes. This is according to The Joy of Cooking, which is a good cookbook for the novice pickle maker. It gets pretty steamy, but that is how you seal the jars. The boiling process forces all the air out of the jar and creates a vaccum.
Ernie's Mustard Pickles
1 1/2 one-inch chunks halved, peeled cucumbers
2 large onions chopped (about six cups)
3 tablespoons salt
1 quart water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1. In a crock or earthenware bowl, combine the cucumbers, onions, salt and water. Let stand at room temperature three hours.
2. In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, flour, celery seeds, mustard and turneric. Gradually stir in the vinegar. Heat, while stirring, until mixture thickens and is smooth.
3. Drain cucumbers and onions, rinse brefly and add to boiling mustard sauce. Bring to a boil again. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal. Cool and store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Makes about 4 pints.